1990 Plainfield-Crest Hill-Joliet Tornado 25th Year Memorial Conducted
Nearly 500 people from Plainfield, Crest Hill, and Joliet honored the dead left by the 1990 Tornado on its 25th anniversary on August 28, 2015 at the Fort Beggs Road Tornado Memorial site.
The center piece of the memorial event was the monolith erected by Joliet Will County Project Pride after the tornado. The stone lists the name of all twenty-nine killed in the storm in the three communities, etched into the granite. The reverse side of the memorial tracked the path of the storm on a map. Organizers thanked then-Project Pride members Dave Hass, and the late Sue Suffren for erecting the monument.
Speakers at the Memorial event included Plainfield Mayor Mike Collins, State Representative Mark Batnik of Plainfield, State Senator Jennifer Bertino Tarrant, Father David Meadow of St. Mary’s Parish, Plainfield, Pastor Kristen Larsen of Glen Ellyn, formerly of Plainfield, and former Mayor Mary Latta, who led the city in 1990.
Mayor Collins remarked that on that day 25 years ago, he had a clean line of site south on Route 59, so devastating was the damage done that day by the storm. Representative Batnik had moved to Plainfield after the tornado, but remarked on how residents showed “togetherness” after dealing with recent flood. Senator Bertino Tarrant presented a proclamation from the General Assembly noting the event 25 years ago and its subsequent loss of life and property. Father Meadow quoted Isaiah 35, “…the desert shall rejoice and blossom…be strong, fear not…behold your God, he shall come and save you.”
Pastor Larsen’s remarks were singularly poignant. An assistant pastor at the time, she ran to her chuch during the disaster to find it intact, but witnessed high school boys dragging their injured football teammates up the street. “While the community grieved,” she explained, “you cannot understand (these things), unless you were a witness…Such a disaster leaves a mark on you…it is more than survivors’ guilt, and more than shame that you survived while others did not.” She noted the example of one resident so distraught at the time, he drove his car into a tree, so that he could feel better.
Pastor Larsen explained that the displacement and disruption healed as homes, church, and schools were rebuilt. She explained that residents who lost family and homes in the storm have a slice through their lives: the time before the storm in which they had everything and the time after the storm when much was lost.
“We wish we did not go through this, but that’s not how the world works,” Pastor Larsen explained. She stated, “The mark of the community is that we are not alone… The Plainfield tornado was an example of how humans overcome.”
She stated, “You are more compassionate toward others who endure suffering, survivors of (Hurricane) Katrina and Coal City know this…you have been through something like that…I cannot say suffering is redemptive or gives ‘god points’. Suffering is intercessory. It connects you to others in ways you could not be connected before…you bear the mark that makes you more compassionate…remember to be compassionate to the stranger, to the suffering.”
Boy Scout Troop 510 used an Eagle Project to landscape and update the site to improve its visibility from the road. Pastor Meadow laid a wreath to commemorate the lives lost in the horrific natural event. On August 28, 1990 Plainfield was a village with 4,500 people when the tornado struck, tearing also into Crest Hill and Joliet to kill and maim. Plainfield now boasts a population of 41,000.